Tristan Perich

1-Bit Music

Tristan Perich on 1-Bit Music:

What is 1-Bit music?

1-Bit Music is an album of low-fi electronic music that is generated by electronics packaged in a standard CD jewel case. Plug it in and you'll have 45 minutes of electronica, ranging from drum and bass to minimalism to electronic noise, played through the headphone jack.

How does it work?

I programmed software that generates music onto a microcomputer, which is packaged with a few other components inside the CD jewel case. It gets its power from a battery - you can switch it on and off; there are stereo volume knobs, a headphone jack and a skip button to change tracks. I write the software on a computer and download the code onto the chip. The music itself is coded as numbers that represent notes.

Who would like it?

The music bridges the sound worlds of electronica, minimalism and noise. Some tracks are totally danceable and some dive into the deeper parts of your brain. It's totally rhythmic and intense, though. When I perform with it, I jack the music into a big sound system and play a drum kit on top of it. And people dance! But the whole album has a minimal electronic aesthetic that geeks are into, too. It's hard to say, exactly - pretty much everyone responds to it positively.

How did you make it?

The 1-Bit Music boxes are all hand-assembled here in New York. I work with a few assistants to make them all from piles of raw parts with soldering irons, wire cutters, glue, and more. It's a limited run. I made a bunch to be signed and numbered and sold with a silk-screen print of the source code and schematic too.

Why did you do it?

I've programmed my entire life. When I was in college at Columbia, I did an independent project with Douglas Repetto, where I learned some simple electronics and how microprocessors work. It's common to generate an audio tone as an early exercise, and I was attracted to this sound aesthetic. It's really raw. It's really minimal. And it's really digital. It's also noisy, and I think that fits the machine-feeling of the whole project - it's a bare-bones circuit, nothing extra, and the sound reflects that. One bit of data is the smallest digital representation of anything: true/false, on/off. It's also the most a chip can produce, usually meant for turning on motors or lights or sending messages to other machinery. It's this uber-reductionist framework that I find really expressive. Try not to think about alarm clocks and other beepy electronics when you think about 1-Bit Music. It's inspired by them, but the sound is rich and alive and dense and danceable. It's polyphonic and the interference patterns of the various tones are lush.

For more information about the composer, visit the artist page for Tristan Perich.

For more information on this work, click here.

June 15, 2007
Cantaloupe Music
Tristan Perich